The Orange Police Department is losing one of its finest — Asst. Chief Edward Koether is retiring after 30 years of service to the town and department.
With three adult daughters all finding their own way in the world, he made the decision to take a break to spend more time with his family before the girls move to other parts of the country and settle in.
The Road To Police Work
Koether’s interest in police work began as a youth growing up in New Haven, admiring the New Haven police officers who patrolled his neighborhood and kept the peace.
Notre Dame High School hosted a career fair and young Eddie approached one of the booths with information about attending the University of New Haven to study Criminal Justice.
“Notre Dame encouraged higher education and I attended UNH, obtaining a Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice Administration,” he said. “While in college, I took an entrance test for, and was hired by the New Haven Police Department as a part time police officer candidate (Supernumerary) in 1980.”
Koether worked various shifts in New Haven and remained there until he saw an advertisement for full time officers in the Orange Police Department, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Orange Police Department Assignments
Koether was hired by Orange in November 1981, and moved to his home in Orange in 1982. He graduated from the CT State Police 15th Canine Training Troop and worked with K-9 Deacon until 1990 when Deacon retired.
He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in November 1987.
In 1992, Sgt. Koether was an interim Commander of the Investigative Services Unit (ISU).
In 2003 he was assigned command of the department’s Motorcycle Unit supervising, and riding the motorcycles in patrol, escort and parade details.
“The K-9 Unit and Motorcycle Unit both were very rewarding,” he said, marking both as memorable highlights of his career.
Somewhere in there he was the Union President and learned valuable lessons about both sides of the negotiating table, better helping him understand each side of any given issue.
In 2004, Koether was assigned as a supervisory investigator in the ISU, remaining there until April 2006 when he returned to patrol as an evening Patrol Supervisor.
Two months later, on June 16, Koether was promoted to Assistant Chief of Police.
If you ask some cops about their careers and the most memorable cases, they may tell you about a bank robbery, a chase or finding an armed perpetrator under a pile of leaves and engaging in hand-to-hand combat until the subject was cuffed and brought in and locked up.
Koether has had his share of tough cases and less than desirable situations, but he is a different kind of cop. He remembers the good things, the cases with a positive outcome. Two immediately came to mind when he spoke to Orange Live on Tuesday morning.
He first mentioned the case of a juvenile who went missing.
“This was both trying and very rewarding in the end when she was found safe,” he said. “It put the Department and our members through our paces. This was something we’d never experienced before and I was very proud of the way our members worked together as well as the other agencies who helped along the way.”
The other one that has stayed with him for a long time, is a residential burglary investigation.
“It wasn’t the incident of the century, but there was a resident whose home was burglarized and a large amount of jewelry was stolen,” he said. “Through contacts, leads and working with other officers, I was able to locate about $12,000 worth of jewelry at a pawn shop in Brooklyn, NY. A lot of the jewelry had been passed on from family members and had a lot of sentimental value. When I was able to return it to the woman, she was just ecstatic.”
During the last 30 years some of the best memories Koether has had are of interacting with residents at public events.
At the last Volunteer Firemen’s Carnival he had a secret, the men and women in the OPD had just learned that he had filed his retirement papers, but he hadn’t released the information to the public yet and this was his last public event as Assistant Chief — and a member of the OPD.
“I’m sad to be leaving after 30 years,” he said. “It’s been a big part of my life and my family’s life. I really enjoy representing the department and interacting with the public at the carnival and the Country Fair, talking to everyone and hearing what they have to say about the department. I will miss that.”
“I enjoyed my time working with the public at the Citizen’s Academy,” he said.
At the Orange Country Fair, Koether could always be seen watching the K-9 demonstrations on the lower field, always happy to answer questions about the K-9 teams and supporting the OPD K-9 team that is helped by area towns.
“I will always have a soft spot for K-9 handlers and the dedication they have,” he said.
The OPD K-9 Max has a mutual affection for Koether’s daughter Brittany, who is going to be a veterinarian. Even after long periods of several months or even a year, Max recognizes Brittany the second he sees her and the two will sit together on the floor and play in Koether’s office until it is time for Max to go to work.
Dedication to MADD
A long-time partnership with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) began in 1989 when he took over the department’s DUI enforcement and training program.
Koether recalls pushing his toddler daughters in a stroller at that time, during the 3 mile MADD walk-a-thon in West Haven to raise money for drunk driving awareness.
He has been the Department Liaison to MADD for many years.
His dedication to MADD was rewarding for him, but also beneficial to the Orange Police Department. Through MADD he was able to introduce the first mobile video camera to a patrol car long before it became the standard.
“MADD donated a camera in the early 90s and we used it to video tape drunk driving stops for use in court,” he said.
MADD has presented Koether with numerous awards and he recently received the Hilda Davis Achievement Award from the organization.
“My work with MADD has been very rewarding. Even after I retire, I will continue to support their efforts,” he said.
With his retirement on his mind, Koether said he is confident that everything will be okay in his absence.
“I have the utmost respect and admiration for our department members. They are very capable and dedicated officers and I have developed a close bond with them,” he said. “Chief Gagne does a great job and all of the officers under him are highly professional men and women. I am very proud to have been a member of this department and having served the town for 30 years.”
He said his departure will open the door for someone else to step up and have an opportunity to serve as Assistant Chief and he is sure the Police Commission will make the right decision.
Chief Robert Gagne said, “Ed Koether has been a fine police officer for more than 30 years of service. His contributions to the safety of the Orange Community has been valued and respected. He was our second K-9 officer and was a great grant writer for CT Department of Transportation traffic safety checkpoints.” Each year, Koether writes a supplemental patrol grant application for DUI Checkpoints and the grant money from the DOT pays for 75% of the cost for officers to work the detail.
Gagne and Koether have known one another for 30 years. Gagne became a full time officer in June 1981 and Koether started five months later.
Gagne was promoted to Lieutenant in 1987 and Koether became a Sergeant.
“For a while he worked the midnight shift, and I went straight to the evening shift,” Gagne said. “At some point he came onto the evening shift, so I was the Lt. and he was one of the two Sgts on that shift, so we did work several years together in that capacity.”
“He was always someone I could trust and rely upon to get the job done out in the field,” Gagne said. “We’ve been through a lot together. That’s a lot of experience walking out the door and he will be missed.”
Gagne said Koether always strove to do a good job and “I’m sure that whatever he decides to do from here, he will do very well.”
Gagne said he and Koether have been friends for 30 years and that friendship will continue long after the retirement. “He’s been a very good Assistant Chief and his experience will be missed,” he said.
Police Commission Chairman Don Lewis said, “He is a great, great Assistant Chief and we’re sorry to see him leaving us, but everyone understands the importance of family. We were lucky to have him.”
First Selectman Jim Zeoli said, “He has served the town for 30 years and he’s been a friend of mine and the town for many years and I’m sure that will continue after his departure from the Police Department.”
“I wish him well in any future endeavors,” he said. “He’s done a great job for the town of Orange. He pushed the K-9 program and the Motorcycle Unit for the department and we truly appreciate him. We will miss him when he’s gone.”
Family has always been important to Koether. A trip to Boston to bring a daughter home for the weekend is not unheard of and he enjoys seeing his wife for a few moments every day at lunch when time permits.
“I’ve been married to my beautiful wife, Peggy, for 28 years this September. We have three wonderful daughters that we are very proud of. Caitlin graduated from Boston University and has worked as a chef for the last four year in Boston. Brittany is in her second year of veterinary school at Oklahoma State and Stephanie begins Law School in New York this month.”
Through his daughters he has learned a lot, too. If you watch him closely you may notice that he texts like a teenager.
Koether’s last day with the OPD is Monday, Aug. 20.
“It’s been a rewarding career and I enjoyed working here,” he said.